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Unintentional Plebeian Insults and “Free Time”

Posted in Anthropology, Art, Artists, Criticism, Games (other), Leisure, Pop-culture, Social Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 3 March, 2010 by endlessslug

The other day, a friend of mine asked me, rather innocently, “[Endless Slug], what do you do with all of your free time?”  This person believed, incorrectly, that the Slug does jack shit all day and lays around thinking the world owes him a favor – at least that’s how I began to interpret such questions from the plebeians a while back.  The question itself was immediately insulting and then was further hurtful when I discovered that my friend actually had a job lined up but he wouldn’t be starting the job for another couple months.  So until that time, he had nothing to do.  Well, Boo-Fucking-Hoo.  I did not and do not take the question as some sort of direct insult, as I said I believe it was very innocent a question, I don’t think he even expected an answer.  Many people are unaware of what the reactions of a person might be and responsible parties such as myself whom have dealt with questions like this many times before “roll with it” and move on.  I, and many like me, are the abnormal population and we deal accordingly – or flip out if the abnormal is also an asshole.  In other words, there’s no reason for an unemployed artist to be a dick to the stupid, it just makes them hurt and angry when they realize they’re stupid.

This event got me to thinking a little – resulting in this post you are reading.  What does the Slug do? How do people interpret the behavior and actions of the Slug? Why can’t the Slug seem to find a job anywhere? What’s wrong with the Slug?  In an attempt, then, to diffuse some misconceptions, I’ll tell you what the Slug does from day to day.  But first, we must make some distinctions:

Definition of “Free Time”

I’ve had to re-check my data about how people actually understand the concept of “free time”.  I believe now that the plebeians understand the concept as: Time out of [my] life which I freely give to pursuits which offer no return on investment. Optionally, it may also mean more simply: unprofitable frivolousness.  “Frivolousness” meaning inherently and intrinsic to the capitalistic understanding of “unprofitable” creating an automatic tautology within the phrase itself. Thus, one cannot exist without the other.  Frivolous = waste of time only because there is no profit.  If there were profit, this behavior becomes cognitively elevated to something like “competitive leisure activities we can discuss at work and are socially acceptable”.  For example, playing Halo 3 is not frivolous, nor a waste of time, while making a pastel drawing is.  Now when [you] one reads what I just wrote, you’ll think about it and probable argue automatically.  Probably because you’ve never thought about it before.  So I ask readers to not simply attack based on your personal experience but take what I said and see if it holds in terms of how people use the concept of free time and leisure in their daily activities and cognition.  What does it mean to a larger audience?  Then we come one step closer to understanding science, and therefore understanding the role of the artist.

“Free Time” as defined and understood by me is simply: Time when I have no worries and may rest.

“Hobby” Vs. “Professional Research and Development”

The general public has a very loose definition of the arts.  Even many contemporary artists, especially those in the postmodern currents, have this same “loose” sort of view.  Artists in all fields struggle daily with the public assaulting them with ignorant Protestant-Ethic/Capitalistic views on the arts, namely that the arts are nothing more than a hobby unless you’re a ‘genius’ or ‘lucky’.  In my experience, there is no such thing as a genius, all the masters were well-trained in what they were doing, not accidents or supernatural anomalies.  A hobby, as defined by the general public would be a purely self-interested, impractical endeavor resulting in no returns on investment, except personal fulfillment. We can’t blame the public for those views – most artists they probably know are fairly impractical and often broke.  I’ve been the direct subject of ridicule countless times as someone who seemingly ‘does nothing’ or ‘does impractical things’.  But people judge on surfaces.  What artists do, however, is not a hobby but professional research and development. We seek to better our understanding of the arts, the economy, history, politics, knowledge, the sciences, other cultures, and ourselves through our work with our mediums.   Artists are scientists.  We observe, develop hypotheses, and produce our art which acts as a living hypothesis which is tested with each reader, viewer, or participant.  Art is a lifetime commitment and an undertaking which cannot be stopped once it has begun.  Artists never stop thinking.  I spend countless hours thinking, stressing, going through scenarios of what to produce, what to communicate with another person – and we need experiences.  When you, Mr. General Public,  see an artist out at a bar, a pub, a restaurant, at a dance, or play, or just walking around the mall, they are not being lazy; we are researching, observing, thinking – constantly.  Or, at least we should be.  I have no respect for the ‘painting a day’ artists, for example.  These people are a waste of life, doing little but pissing out hobby-art directly for profit.  Sure, sometimes a day-painter has an eye and can make some nice stuff for a Midwest-suburban kitchen, but so what? An anomaly ultimately with no function but to fill a trash heap when the owners move.  I spent almost a decade as a Social Scientist in Anthropology and learned that anthropologists are often treated the same – as if they do nothing but eat, travel, and talk at the public about ‘things no one cares about,’ while sociologists and psychologists take jobs which should very rightfully be attributed to anthropologists only because the public has no idea what anthropologists do.  It’s a shame and an embarrassment to human knowledge.  The idea that literature specialists get the myth-analysis jobs is also in that same category of ridiculous.  Definitions are pointless without observations of meaning, behavior, and function.  There is a pattern.  It is not God, idiots.

The aggressive ignorance of the non-artist world is compounded by artists themselves; namely, those artists comprising post-modern contemporary art, music, dance, and literature.  The rise of the middle class has saturated the fine art world with shit, leading many amateurs and folks without advisement to think that this mess of individualistic art is the ‘right’ way to ‘do’ art, namely, ‘anyway you want – you can do anything, no one can critique you because it’s yours’.  And so on.  What a load of elephant steamer.  To be an artist of any sort requires an intense public responsibility.  We cannot make art which is only for artists – although many people will make a few works in this realm; we do it to learn not to do it too often.  We must make art which communicates complex experiences to a public which will also experience the same things but have no ability to express or exchange the emotional complexity of such experiences.  This is what making fine art is all about.  On top of that, the work should be aesthetically fit to the message; i.e., it should be beautiful, relative to what is being said.

With that aside, here is a typical day in the life of the Endless Slug:

1 )  Wake up terrified due to nightmares about money and police, often because my roommates make early breakfasts and bang stuff on the counters below my bed which in my dream sound like people banging on my door.

2 ) Check email.  Each day, I receive 1-6 job rejections, 20-40 spam emails (many with false job opportunities for work-at-home or cash-collections scams), 1-3 career-builder style job lists full of jobs I’m either not qualified or over-qualified for, and my daily horoscope.

3 ) Check hits on my business websites and see if anyone bought anything.  After 11 months ‘live’, I haven’t sold a thing.

4 ) Deal with creditor calls.  Since I have no money, I stopped paying my credit cards.  I’ve dealt with it before, but seriously – Why bother calling me 10 times a day, per card, when it is clear that if I haven’t had a job in a year that constantly asking for money will result in nothing.  I will call you, people, when I decide to send a payment.

5 ) Check out the career-site jobs and apply to 1-10 jobs (I do a minimum of 5 every morning, since June)

6 ) Then I play some Facebook games.  Even this act is not just frivolous.  Part of my ongoing research is on leisure and game play so when I play, I analyze and track how shittily these people actually make these games.  They’re all very limiting.  I wish someone would hire me as a game consultant.  Seriously, I’ll make ya rich.

7) Then I decide whether I will work on a painting or work on a book project for the new business.

7a ) If painting, I have to check my lighting, materials, ideas, and whether or not anyone is cooking.  The cooking smells are so terrible up here I cannot work if anyone cooks, even myself.  It’s not that any of the food is bad, but for whatever reason, the scents collect into a terrible gas cloud upstairs that does not seem to vent.  I have a very sensitive sense of smell so it generally cripples me for a couple hours every day, whenever anyone cooks.

7b ) If a book, not much is required other than motivation.  If there were too many creditors or I had to discuss finances with family, the motivation to create is basically toast.

7c ) If I cannot work, I read and think.  Currently I am reading: poetry from Byron and Shelley, Romances of Chretian de Troyes (untranslated), Interviews with Francis Bacon (the painter), once a week I read a single short story from Guy de Maupassant, Dying Earth by Jack Vance (research), the Lais of Marie de France, the 1st edition AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, books on setting up corporations and copyright laws, and methods of Maxfield Parrish.

8 ) around 6pm, I get some food and watch Attack of the Show.

9 ) Depending on the day, I might have a show to watch in prime time, it’s rare.

10 ) I work through AOTS and all shows, and continue to work until around 2-4am.

11) Around midnight, I get more food, usually something light.

12) I then make a decision of whether or not to stay at my place to go to the girlfriend’s place, or have her come by.  If I see the girlfriend, my production goes down to about 10% although her input on what I’m doing is valuable and important since I have few peer critics at the moment and I must always be careful – all artists must always be careful – that what they’re/I am producing is clear and understandable to the public and peers alike.  The g/f thus serves as a powerful grounding device. I urge everyone to get one or more.

<Optional Nights> Other nights are more social.  Two to three nights a week, I fence or teach fencing at the local University.  I usually go back to work after I come home.  One night a week, I run an AD&D game which I’ve done every Wednesday since 1995.  Even playing this game, as my players will undoubtedly support, I research, test, develop, and work, trying to make the game better and better – constant refinement.  To my players, the game is a hobby, to me it’s a professional work as well as continuation of oral tradition – it has meaning beyond simple personal fulfillment.   One night a week, I have a Tacos and Buffy night.  During this, I still analyze and lecture to my poor friends about theme, character, plot, story, myth, legend, tricksters, what have you.. and then go pass out, hopefully with a fit girl and a Cabernet by my side.

And that’s my day.  There is no free time.  I’m not even sure what free time even is for me.  I do many things, most professionally for a time.  I was a musician, a drafter, a roofer, a produce guy, a warehouseman, a demolition man, a painter -both fine and houses, a film critic, an illustrator, a publisher, a writer, a college teacher, a world-traveler, a critical reader (is there any other type?), a restaurant manager, a cultural anthropologist, a researcher of language and culture and space, and according to my Indonesian friends, a lover.  I learn things every day and can never learn too much or enough.  I spend all of my time trying to learn everything I can – not necessarily to be ‘better’ than anyone, even myself, but to know and to improve everyone else.  I don’t do this for me, I do it for you.  I like compiling data and figuring things out.  If anyone’s seen me teach, you’ll see what the result is.  I’ve actually been told that to attempt to improve those around me is an act of pretentiousness or arrogance.  Seriously?  When you force it upon somebody with a claim that you are somehow, without error, correct – yes this is pretentious and arrogant.  I, as well as most artists, want to interact with you though, we want you to give us some data. We are proposing hypotheses, not theories, and always a hypothesis backed up with much empirical data.  We hope to develop theory through experimentation which we can only do through human interaction and interaction with our work – so give it to us.  To make work which works for only a select group of people is limited and also pointless other than for learning experiences.  The best art in the world is functional for everyone within a cultural and era limitation, if not now, than later with age and experience.  We all read Hemingway in high school, but few ‘get it’ until they’re 24, 35, and 40 years old.  Go read it again.  See what’s changed.  I don’t expect my friends in Romania to understand Hemingway, however – at least in the same way.  With the arts, we must always think diachronically and culturally.  This means, from geographical culture to culture and over time.  Good fine art changes over time with you, it is not necessarily easily understood, it takes time, experience, and life to ‘get it’ sometimes.

So.  No, I don’t work in the traditional Americana sense.  It’s not that I don’t want to – I search for jobs every day, from McDonalds to the FBI, but nothing has come through, nothing has worked out.  I make no income, I owe lots of money, I have little to give back to anyone except a small game I run weekly and some nice art people are downloading for free.  But don’t ever think that I have any free time, or that any artist does.  I wish my mind could have free time, to not be stressed, to relax, to play a video game once in a while (I don’t even/can’t even do that), or to just generally enjoy any given minute of my day.  Instead, my brain is on constant overdrive.  From the moment I wake up until late at night when I cannot sleep, the brain doesn’t stop stressing, criticizing, wondering, worrying, thinking.   As I thought about writing this entry, I asked myself that same question which started all of this – Slug, what do you do with your free time?  My honest answer: I hope.  But unlike the American Spirit’s way of thinking, in my experience, when there is no free time, there is no hope.

Personally, I’ve always thought everyone else but me had immense free time and money, both of which they wasted.  I still think this.  I see people every day wasting money on pointless pursuits of personal fulfillment which accomplishes nothing except get you people to the next day.  This is partly why I get so insulted when someone accuses me of being, well, a slug.  It’s the people with the least money who could use it the most.  I give back, if allowed to.  This concept of hard work = financial success, is a complete lie.  Although, due to my cultural training, I struggle every day with thoughts such as, “today will be the day when all my work pays off…”  But I know it will not, and will never be.  Many of my friends and acquaintances repeat the mantra of “something will turn up…”  Well, friends, I’ve been looking for a professional job, every day, since May of 2000.  I was able to land a job teaching at a Community College, but damnit if that wasn’t a huge scam.  I’ve rarely seen a business rape it’s employees as much as that place.  And it does not help that every day I’d have to drive an hour to teach 70+ students about my chosen career that they care nothing about and will go off knowing nothing and getting way better jobs than I.  To Hell with that abuse and trauma.  Interestingly, I do have an open invite to return to teaching whenever I like – apparently I was one of their best instructors.  Sure, I cared about the institution, my field, and the students.  My bad.  I didn’t know I was supposed to not give a shit and just collect a paycheck before returning to my Wal-Mart day-job.  I quit that place – partly due to the above reasons, partly due to that I was supposed to have a new job but that fell through, very badly.  Some might say I just “play the game” poorly, but I feel like I was never invited to play at all.

Finally, if I didn’t offend enough yet:

Fuck Haiti, fuck Chile, fuck little poor kids somewhere in the so-called 3rd world that you don’t know, donate to the one you do know: The Endless Slug. Click here to send me some money so I can live. If you can’t donate, do me a favor and fail at something important today.

-The Endless Slug

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Shallow Experiences and Imagined Communities

Posted in Anthropology, Art, Criticism, Pop-culture, Social Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 5 January, 2010 by endlessslug

How do we define the difference between rich or deep experiences and those experiences which have little to no direct impact on our lives?  Secondly, how do we make another understand that there is, in fact,  a distinct difference?  And further, how do we explain that these richer, fuller experiences do not have to have anything to do with religion although people often immediately point at some sort of spiritual or religious explanation when having a meaningful relaitonship with an experience.

These are some thoughts which keep me sleepless sometimes.

It occurred to me one day that these new generations of people are very ignorant with no change in behavior in sight.  We are constructing a culture of pure ‘stupid’ in the full definition of that word – I do not mean it as a slight but as an observation.  I consider myself rather stupid when it comes to using Adobe Illustrator, for instance.  But the difference between me and the rest of the society I seem to find myself in, is that I strive to improve on that stupidity, at least when I am aware of it.  And thus, my epiphany: When unaware, the public continues as if there are no problems in the world at all – which relatively, there are not.  We cannot argue.  The cell-phone and text-message phase of human evolution is a dangerous step towards extinction.  I don’t mean extinction of the species, but of something else: extensively shared meaning.

Sit in a Wal-Mart sometime and watch the teens walk around with their cells.  Try not to be creepy, please.  You’ll observe that the act of being with friends at the store, the act of being at the store at all, and the act of meeting people is far outweighed with the personal interest involved in the text messages which will erupt on their phones every few seconds.  This is because there is a much more intensively personal imagined community occurring in their minds (cf Benedict Andersen).  Why would anyone pay attention to the world they are currently walking around in when much more important things are happening between the space constructed mentally between texts – the text-web, as I sometimes call it.  So many experiences of life are being completely ignored – so many social skills are going unlearned, undeveloped, as people Twitter, ironically, about what they are currently doing, sometimes so quickly that the Twit is posted before the action even occurs.

One might argue that with new technologies and innovations, new behaviors and identities will form.  Sure, I cannot disagree.  I also text message, use Facebook, obviously blog, and have occasional public conversations on my cellphone.  But with the use of these handy tools, I understand a certain context for them.  I have had life experiences which did not include these things.  I have had many experiences which were deep to the core of my character and have developed me in much more rich and powerful ways than I expect any of these kids on celly’s will ever in their lives – and I am sad for them.

-To a point.  Instead, I look elsewhere, for others like me.  I thought I could find them in the art world, where they used to be, but the art world now is ridiculously involved with itself and its little shallow messages to itself.  Fine art today is like a sad kid who sends himself text messages in a language he does not understand, but up high so all can see.  Bravo.

Moral: Get off your damn phone and talk to a human you don’t yet know.  Then, get their number.  You are not anywhere near as important as the act of direct interaction between people is.

Ovat Punches Knowledge and Art Square in the Balls, Once Again

Posted in Anthropology, Art, Artists, Contemorary Art, Criticism, Social Science, Technique with tags , , , , , , , on 3 September, 2009 by endlessslug

So, I’m feeling pretty ill today, can’t work, can’t be in the studio, I can do very little but eat and play some video games. I decided to throw on Ovat yet again to see what’s up in the contemporary art scene. Ovat’s been running a number of specials on music, dance, and inspirational teachers lately which has been alright, but I was hoping to get back to the painters. Today, there is a special running about Andrew Rogers. Rogers thinks himself an artist and travels the world dropping massive stone geoglyphs in remote areas with some need to spread some sort of philosophical vision to the world. I come from a background in art and anthropology with specializations in archaeology and belief systems. Rogers is a complete hack-asshole. How self-righteous, self-centered, and ignorant can we possibly be when we have such a pompous and arrogant mentality where we feel we can drop a turd in the middle of a number of small societies in the world, preaching some sort of universal about spirituality? I’m all about universals, but make sure it’s friggin’ universal and not just your interpretation of what universal means. I don’t even know if Rogers asked permission for any of these sites or if the folks there even fully understood who this foreigner was, destroying our pasture lands and indigenous landscapes. If these people really wanted a massive geoglyph (which, by the way, these are not), they would make it themselves.

What a dick.

This came off a bit more ranty than usual. Again, not feeling well here, and I think this just lost a little more hope for the human condition from me.

Modigliani and iCarly (gets punched in the face)

Posted in Art, Artists, Pop-culture, Social Science, Studio Work with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 9 August, 2009 by endlessslug

Yesterday, I received my new Modigliani book in the mail.  You really cannot beat an 80 cent art book from Amazon.  For those of you reading along, the book is Modigliani: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculptures, edited by Werner Schmalenbach, Prestel Press 2005.  This is a little coffee-table sorta book but since I was lacking both finances and an in-house book on Modigliani, I could not pass it up for the price.  It is a cute little book though, full of good photos, good interviews – including a very entertaining appendix where a number of famous people explain their relationships with the artist.  The early portion of the book includes a number of essays on Modigliani and a number of photos of work by his influences – something I wish I would see more of in some of these books.  As a younger art student, it would have been very helpful to have some influential reference work right in the volume.  Now that I am professionally versed in many of the worlds artists over the last few thousand years, I no longer need references.  However, still always something is new.  Through this book I discovered a new favorite painter whose work will one day be another blog post – once I can afford one of his many $400 books…  Until then, he shall remain my secret.

Secrets.

I study many things – too many things according to most who know me.  One of my areas of concern is television and other media directed at certain demographics, namely young adults and children.  As I age, I get more and more concerned with the nature of this entertainment as people who used to make this sort of programming because they wanted to give way to people doing it because they’re paid to – and paid to fit certain requirements.  A quick example, since this all has little to do with my blog as it is, would be the Dora the Explorer show.  It recently came to my attention that this terrible disaster of children’s programming was in fact created after paying some show designers to make a new show.  There were no previous ideas, no preliminaries, nothing – just “here’s some money, make us a hit”.  Once I head this, I wanted to go huddle around Fred Rogers’ grave.  Point being, there are few very authentic-feeling shows that really know what kids need to learn these days replaced by what I see as mindless placating of behavior kids say they want.  Most of the quality and refined-ness of things in the world today are being slowly pecked away by the need to bring the consumer directly in line with the producer.  But what do consumers know? They consume anything.  Some of us consumers are more aware than others, but I still do not usually make my own clothes, kill my own cow when I’m hungry, or create my own livingroom dramas.  Actually, I have done a number all of those things, but not regularly.  We live in a society where we believe we have input on the things around us – which, to some degree we do.  I believe we have this extensive input at the sacrifice of developmental refinement and quality.  Where are our standards?  Dora just keeps looking at me and yelling things in other languages… it’s so weird.  What happened to my cigarette-smoking tom-cat and his trickster mouse?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about the ‘new’, I just wish it didn’t suck so much.

I constantly research.  There’s no point in criticizing something when you haven’t experienced it or have some sort of data that might suggest a certain idea about what you’re criticizing.  After complaining about kids’ TV lately, some folks suggested that I check out iCarly on Nickelodeon as it seems to have some sort of “pulse” of the youth.  I watched one episode and barely got through it.  On the plus side, the show is hip.  The use of internet publishing and video-streaming is very innovative and cutting-edge, while maintaining a certain connection to an occasionally viewing young adult audience.  The language is contemporary and seems like the dialog is actually written by folks that either are younger or have some kids in high school, or at least did some field research.  On the downside, the humor is lame, in the way Saved by the Bell was lame, although I’d prefer to watch iCarly still.  The show writers hint at, frequently, some very good lessons or ideas to get across to the upcoming youth population.  Upcoming meaning, soon-to-be-adults.  There does seem to be a certain sense of responsibility with this show, and that I commend as well – but again, it’s just stupid overall.  The show reflects a reality, I believe few kids can relate to, but I might be out of my element in that claim.  I did notice a high number of code-switched phrases and idioms.  For those of you unfamiliar with this phenomena of linguistics, a code-switch is simply the use of a word as a direct replacement for another word but unlike a metaphor or simile, the words switched have exactly the same implied meaning, not a relative one.  The code-switching, I believe is part of the show’s success.  The language sounds legit, and it is, but it’s spoken the same way that kids speak around or near their parents or other disapproving adults.  So, that illegal substance or sex reference you made as a kid is hidden in a reference to another word with no known symbolic shared reference except contextually in that moment.  “We are going to get naked tonight” encodes to “we are going to get silly tonight,” for example.  There is a sense of metaphor, but we really have a simple replacement.  From the couple episodes of iCarly I’ve now seen, it seems to excel at this behavior.

The point of everything: iCarly got punched in the face!

I will probably never watch this crap show again.  However, I did have to watch the episode last night where the leading character gets punched in the face, twice!  I was skimming through the post-modern essays in my Modigliani book when I heard the fight sounds from the episode.  I was put into an already delightful state of intellectual bliss with a couple of Modigliani’s nudes, when I look up to see Carly all hyper and happy, jumping with her friends in a mindlessly manga-style way, right before a fight she thinks is fake.  She gleefully hops into the ring, puts her little mouth-piece in, smiles, and then the handy-cam shot of a fist comes hurtling into her mouth.  Carly is wide-eyed and shocked, when BOOM, fist #2 impacts her face.  This event of Modigliani’s nudes coupled with a crap kids’ TV star’s face-punch was a moment of artistic catharsis pour moi.  Back to the studio I go.

Now, if only I could make Spongebob’s sun explode…